“Magic. It’s windy,” replied Ebbot Lundberg, regarding queries about tonight’s show and our inclement weather. This was The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ last night of their US tour in Chicago’s modern and packed Lincoln Hall. Tonight was an emotional one for the fans and the band, too. But, the harsh, piercing chill outside didn’t alter the vocalist’s enthusiasm. In fact, Lundberg explained that our unpredictable climate made him feel at home.
Back home is Gothenburg, Sweden, where, in 1995, the band rose from the ashes of cult Union Carbide. Since, they’ve produced six albums. The most recent,Communion, featured 24 tracks meant to correspond to the 24 hours of the day. TSOOL are deep thinkers and their themes tend to generate discussion of politics and unrest. In fact, one cut from Communion “Babel On”, with its sitar-like machinations and allusion to Eastern philosophy, is a stellar example of their off-kilter repertoire. Unfortunately, it wasn’t played tonight, but equally respected tunes were.
The psychedelia started even before the band members entered the small stage. Spirals of smoke rose dreamily against a visual reflection of a rotating earth. Lundberg could be heard offstage singing some muted melodies. Onstage, Lundberg appeared in a midnight black caftan with a gold lame scarf floating around his neck. Broad-shouldered, he looked incredibly comfortable. The band, brimming with energy, played “Lost Prophets in Vain”. The small stage almost creaked from the live-action which followed; guitarists Ian Person and Mattias Barjed and Kalle Jerneholm (bass) leapt into the air, harpooning their instruments towards the crowd haphazardly.
Wearing a black fedora and tee bearing an illustration of a fish tie, drummer Fredrik Sandsten delighted the crowd by juggling sticks before thrashing the tom-tom. Meanwhile, dueling guitars brandished shrill notes. Against the back wall, somber black and white stills, mostly portraits of serious grown-ups or abandoned houses, drifted by. Lundberg periodically picked up maracas as the backdrop shifted to drifting ocean waves. Martin Hederos, the head-banging keyboardist, twirled his head around so vigorously that I experienced a queasy vertigo of sea-sickness.
Lundberg faced the audience. Slowly, his baritone voice assured us that he’s been here before, that he’s been to a lot of places in Chicago. “How’d you like it?” shouted a male fan. “I love it,” he exclaimed. He lifted his meaty palms into the air like the Messiah and it was impossible to turn away. Lundberg exploits the calm of ‘60s Donovan and the brassiness of UKs Ian Anderson.
The juxtaposition of guitar thrashing and Lundberg’s confessional vocals and tranquil presence was sensual. Also, the fact that the sterile black and whites of those somber faces on the backdrop, slowly rolling, boggled the mind.
Strobe lights whirled around Lindberg’s austere clothing. His beaded necklace glistened. But, while his clothes made a kind of spiritually moving statement, his expression remained frustratingly still; except when his pale eyes focused to punctuate a grating guitar lick.
“Second Life Replay” has a slow-moving and chilling chord structure. Choir-boy antiphony washed over the dramatic lyrics; “I killed myself today / I had so many lives/I did it to survive,” was sung with a blend of brine and honey. Lundberg brandished another subtle psychedelic punch while performing solo on a glow-in-the-dark kelly-green blues harp. This dramatic solo meshed darkly with the baroque keyboard melody shaped by Hederos.
But, when the band poured itself fully into “Big Time” the seismic waves of insanity flooded into full throttle. Lundberg squished a tambourine over his head, and with an expression of absolute bewilderment, allowed it to careen around his shoulders. “Some of you came a long way like we did,” he said before launching into “Century Child.” Screaming “We’re not afraid to get old,” he blasted the tambourine against his ghostly palm.
“Thrill Me” is about the most perfect rock song played tonight. The vocal hook, “Tell me what you’ve got,” is layered with angst and an unanticipated edge of exhaustion. This infectious number was followed by “Sister Surround”, which inspired more rancor. Several amped-up enthused ladies spun their arms around and cleverly pushed themselves to the front. I’d never seen so many men dancing with complete abandon, as they mouthed the eccentric lyrics.
“The only time I’m real is when you put me down,” screams Lundberg in his throatiest rampage. The keys meld into a very Doors-like solo and Lundberg lowers his voice even further as he, astonishingly, replicates the late Jim Morrison. There continues to be so much thrashing on the stage that it resembles the local street-gang infiltrated emergency room. “Mind The Gap” is an all-out whirl of rock. But, before the expected encores, Lundberg stood completely still. “My feeling is this concert feels too short,” he said mockingly, to appreciative whoops from frenzied fans.
“The Age of No Reply” was riveting, and Lundberg asked the crowd for more requests. Then, like a jolt of electro-shock, Lundberg leapt off stage into the crowd. Cooing “Aaahhhhh” demurely, he cradled his head into the unsuspecting arms of a blonde, and that eerie Morrison voice tripped off his tongue once more. Floating drum sticks fell to the floor and some eager fans feverishly grabbed them.
Two Rockford (Illinois) fans saw the group six years ago on Sunset Strip. Tonight, not as surprised with these antics, one recalled actually assisting Lundberg off the stage. He also described TSOOL as, “One of the best bands no one ever heard of.”